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May 5, 2010 11:10 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town working to ban gambling at Westhampton property to thwart potential Shinnecock bid

May 5, 2010 11:10 AM

The Southampton Town Board is considering preemptive legislation that would head off consideration of 58 acres of county-owned land adjacent to Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton as a potential site for a possible future casino run by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

The legislation, introduced last month by Councilman Chris Nuzzi, will be the subject of a Town Board public hearing on Tuesday, May 11. If adopted, the legislation would expressly ban all forms of gaming on the property, known as the Hampton Business and Technology Park.

Mr. Nuzzi said the approved use of the property, created in the 1970s as a special planned development district, did not specifically allow gaming but that old industrial zoning codes might have allowed for some forms of gaming.

“This is just an effort to reiterate the specific intent of the town and of Suffolk County when we crafted the planned development district for the enterprise park, which was high-tech industry, maybe a motion picture studio, and some local companies that need to expand their commercial space,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “There was never any intent to reference anything that would be inclusive of something like a casino.”

Last year, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a 40-year lease with Rechler@Gabreski LLC, a smaller branch of Rechler Equity Partners of Melville. The firm, which will break ground on the project either later this year or early next year, plans to build a 485,000-square-foot industrial park featuring six buildings. Plans also call for a 145-room hotel at the site.

Soon after the Shinnecocks’ plans to build a casino were first aired, the Gabreski site was identified as a property that would be more desirable for the development plans than the 79-acre Westwoods property in Hampton Bays that the tribe had initially targeted. The Westhampton property, while smaller, would provide direct access to both the airport and the Sunrise Highway without requiring casino visitors to pass through local hamlets. The plans that created the technology park also included a hotel and convention center as possibilities—which were also key components of the Shinnecocks’ early casino plans.

But the Westhampton property is on the edge of the pine barrens, and the land represents one of the last opportunities for large regional economic development, Mr. Nuzzi said.

Earlier this spring, newspaper reports quoted members of a Suffolk County legislative commission identifying the property as one of four sites in the county that are being considered—by the county legislators, not the Shinnecocks—as possible sites for a future casino. Some county legislators have said they want to make sure that any Shinnecock casino remains in Suffolk County, so that the potentially mountainous revenues benefit Suffolk’s tax rolls. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said last month that he is talking with representatives for the tribe about the possibility of a casino being part of a redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum property.

Shinnecock Nation Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said this week that the tribe has not considered the Westhampton property one of its choices for many years. Still, Mr. Gumbs said he would have preferred if Town Board members had informed the tribe ahead of time of any legislation that was directed specifically at something involving them.

“This doesn’t bother us specifically, but what is the problem with them calling us or reaching out to us to see if we even wanted to put something there?” Mr. Gumbs said. “Whether we were interested or not, it would be nice if we could sit down and discuss things with them sometimes—that’s how you work out things. It’s like we’re invisible.”

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The airport has long been under utilized; as soon as I heard the current plans call for a 145 room hotel/convention center I began to suspect the Tribe might be interested in Gabreski. As someone who has lived in Hampton West Estates across from Gabreski for over 30 years I welcomed the County plan for the Technology Park. As advertised this should produce higher paying year round jobs that would hopefully go to area residents. The casino however, would produce lower paying jobs, let alone a ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on May 7, 10 3:53 PM
sitting quietly for years listening to all of the ignorant opinions of what the possibility of this casino means to the local area has left me stewing.If any of you were to look at what other Indian casinos have done across the nation you would see that they have been very beneficial to not only the local economy but they have been a tremendous source of revenue for everyone involved. Traffic is less than would be found for one of the local fairs , crime is less than would be found in riverside, ...more
By frank84 (10), hampton bays on May 9, 10 11:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
Frank84's comments are well spoken. Whether you support gambling or not the fact is people do gamble and tax revenue is going somewhere else. My point is the that Gabreski is County owned, not owned by the Town. Would the Town see any tax revenue from this or does the County reap the benefits? Also, there are some examples of Indian casinos not succeeding, its not always a tax revenue panecea. Between having the high tech center or a casino at Grabreski I'd take the high tech park. The Shinnecocks ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on May 11, 10 10:57 AM
I am indifferent on gambling. Casinos hold no appeal for me so I'd consider myself relatively neutral on what goes in the space. I'd only like to point out that the plan for a "technology park" was one of the most lame brained ideas I'd heard in awhile. What makes anyone think Westhampton would be a "technology" mecca. I bet you'd end up w/ an alarm company and a cell phone store for all your wished for success. Personally, I'd rather see all the land return to pine barrens. Failing that I'd ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on May 12, 10 10:06 AM
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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on May 13, 10 5:47 AM
Community opinion in the greater Westhampton area is decidedly against a casino at or near Gabreski or anywhere else in Southampton town. Any legislation that plugs the loophole possibly allowing gaming there is necessary and welcome. Despite what the oh-so-easily-offended Lance Gumbs says, the Gabreski location has been so widely and frequently floated over the last seven years that it's not possible to conclude with certainty that the Shinnecocks themselves don't contemplate it.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on May 13, 10 5:47 AM
Though often critical of Chris Nuzzi, I'm glad to congratulate him for leading the charge on this one. Any even remote possibiity of siting a casino in the neighborhood of Gabreski Airport should be shut down tight, now.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 14, 10 6:03 AM